Notorious French gangster Rédoine Faïd stands trial for helicopter prison break

Infamous French criminal Rédoine Faïd appears in court on Tuesday to be tried for an audacious prison break in 2018, during which he escaped by helicopter.

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His high-security trial begins on Tuesday morning as Paris’s historic Palais de Justice and will continue until October 20, with the 51-year-old accused of hijacking an aircraft and two jail breaks.

Some 11 others suspected of helping Faïd during his escape and subsequent three months on the run will also be tried, including five members of his family.

Escape artist

In July 2018, Faïd broke out of Réau Prison south of Paris with the help of three accomplices who used smoke bombs and angle grinders to make their way into the facility’s visiting room – after first disembarking from a hijacked helicopter that landed in the prison’s courtyard.

The entire operation took just ten minutes: while one accomplice stayed in the helicopter holding a gun to the pilots head, two others threw smoke bombs as they broke into the prison where Faïd was being held.

Witnesses reported seeing the “very serene” prisoner walk “calmly” to the aircraft before it took off.

Police later found the helicopter north of Paris, and arrested Faïd three months later in Creil, his hometown.

A policeman takes a picture of the Alouette II helicopter on July 1, 2018 in Gonesse, north of Paris, after it was abandoned by French armed robber Redoine Faid after his escape from prison in Reau. © Geoffroy van der Hasselt, AFP

The prison escape was Faïd’s second in five years.

In April 2013, he used explosives to blow open gates and took four wardens hostage to escape from Sequedin Prison in northern France.

One of the wardens was released just outside the prison, another a few hundred metres away and the final two were left along a motorway. All were reportedly in shock, but unharmed.

Faïd was arrested the following month. In March 2017, he received a 10-year sentence for the prison break.

Infamous robber, celebrated author

Faïd had been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment in 1999 after three years on the run for an attack on an armored car, but was paroled a decade later. It was during this time that he was linked to the 2010 armed robbery that killed 26-year-old French police officer Aurélie Fouquet.

In July 2011 Faïd was taken back into custody for failing to comply with the terms of his release and ordered to serve out the remainder of his previous 18-year sentence. Faïd was later convicted of masterminding the robbery in which Fouquet was killed and, after an appeal, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Faïd wrote that he discovered his “calling” at the age of 12, having, he claimed, already stolen candy from a supermarket at the age of six.

In 2010, he co-authored a book about his adventures entitled “Braqueur: Des cites au grand banditisme” (Armed Robber: From housing estates to organised crime) in which he detailed his delinquent youth and life as a criminal in Paris’s impoverished crime-ridden suburbs.

He cites American films such as “Scarface” and “Heat” as inspiration for his exploits.

“Movies for me were like a user’s guide for armed robbery,” he told the LCI news channel when the book, which features a blurb from Heat’s director Michael Mann on its cover, was released.

In the prepossessing headshots of the convicted criminal and author online, including one from an Interpol web page in late 2012 or early-to-mid 2013, Faïd looks into the camera, his right eyebrow a bit higher than his left, his closed mouth slightly stretched into the beginning of a smile.

His open, assured gaze suggests that he knows something, or has something to share.

The question that lingers is whether that involves the taking of an innocent life in the 2010 robbery that killed Fouquet. In 2018, Faïd’s one-time lawyer, Christian Saint-Palais, told French daily Le Parisien that his client has “always contested his involvement in this story”.

Faïd’s conviction in that case stands.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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